Tuesday, August 19, 2014


     Every other Saturday I work at the Hillsdale Branch of the San Mateo Public Library.
 Each time I've worked there, an older couple comes in who intrigue me. He is silver
haired, slight, with a boyish grin. She is silver haired as well, but exotic, with an accent
and a chic wardrobe. They pick out books and films together, commenting on favorites,
and help each other withcheck out. I always wonder about them, where they met, how
long they have known each other, are they friends or is it more romantic. I can imagine
a younger version of the man carrying her books home from school.

     But last week he came alone! Where was she? Was she on a vacation with her
children, visiting family, at a ladies luncheon? How could he come to the library without
her! As I judge their ages to be somewhere in their late eighties, there were other
possibilities for her absence as well, but I didn't want to go there. Since I've only spoken
to them once, when I placed a hold on a book, I couldn't ask.

    So I'll have to wait two weeks to see if they come back together! I hope so. This is
what comes of observing people - and being slightly bored at the reference desk!

     I'm reminded of a wonderful new book I'd like to recommend entitled, Elizabeth Is
Missing by Emma Healey. It's a mystery, the main character and sleuth suffers from
dementia. Seeing the world through her eyes is so interesting.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Great News!

    I was so pleased to see that Don't Sneeze At the Wedding is listed on the Bank Street College of Educations' Best Children's Books of the Year, 2014 edition.



         I've recently become a volunteer judge at Rate Your Story. Each month I receive a
     few manuscripts to critique and rate on a scale of 1-10.

      I'm a tough judge. Because I care so much about children and their books, and
     because I've read thousands of children's books, I hold each manuscript to a high

      To be fair, these are beginning writers. Writing is difficult and it can take years to
    learn the craft. I hope these writers realize that their manuscripts are stepping stones,
    helpful practice on the path to learning to write well. Truthfully, I've yet to receive a
    manuscript which I think any amount of revision would turn into a publishable story.

     Why? Because the plots are tired and weak, the characters are not memorable, there is
   no real conflict, no resolution, hence, no story. There is a lack of understanding of
   children's book formats, a blurring of fact and fiction, such spare wordage that all
   clarity is lost.

        I'm not an editor. The manuscripts haven't been sent to me for publication, only for
     critique. Yet I think publication is the goal. So I'm not sure the writers want to hear
    what I wish to tell them which basically is, "Good try. Now read as many children's
    books as you can then start something new." It isn't what I say. I look for a fine point,
     suggest areas to tweak. And perhaps that is actually more helpful.

     But this is a tough business. So I start to question the value of critique. Is it more
     helpful for writers to have an honest judge, or to be offered encouragement? I think
    about myself too. Would I  have been better off hearing just enough praise to keep me
    going? Or would I have thrived if I  had learned early on how high the bar is, how
     much further I had to go?